Token Creek Chamber Music

Program II

Chamber Music Society of Minnesota

Saturday, August 28, 4:00 P.M.
Sunday, August 29, 4:00 P.M.

Tickets: Regular $32 · Students $12


Fanfare for Ken Skrowaczweski Four Encores for Stan, for string quartet and narrator Harbison String Quintet: For Krystyna (Andante non troppo) Skrowaczweski Suite for Solo Violin, on soggetti cavati (selections) Harbison Sonata for Viola and Piano Harbison String Quintet in C major Mozart

Program Notes

Our friends from the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota bring us two pieces for string quartet and added viola, by Mozart and Skrowaczewski and a short piece written for the latter on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday.   This offers  a good opportunity to  ponder how difficult it is to establish a musical reputation in two musical disciplines, it is so much simpler for the public and the press to confine the individual to only one.   But Stan Skrowaczewski was throughout his career firmly established in both conducting and composing—and the composing part has been consistently undervalued.  He composed with a firm sense of old values, clarity of form, harmony and  rhythm, and a very strong will to seize the listener’s attention. His pieces are forthright and confident, full of trust in the power—even of the unfamiliar—to take the listener along. And he was a writer: Skrowacsewski’s beautiful words anchor and structure Harbison’s Four Encores.

The C major quintet is a very unusual piece by Mozart.  It is customary in discussing symphonic music for commentators to point out the radical new dimensions proposed by the first movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony.  A new kind of formal thinking is often pointed out there, in which even connective fabric grows into a significant presence, leading to later extended symphonic structures in Schubert, Bruckner, and Mahler.  

Mozart’s String Quintet in C major, though seldom discussed in such terms, is actually as radical an expansion of  opening movement dimensions as the Allegro that opens Beethoven’s Eroica.   The cello makes three initial  leisurely presentations, from the bottom of its register to the top, the last of which yields a wonderful complex chord which leads to a brief pause.   Then the whole spacious notion happens again in different harmonic coloration.  When do we get on with it?, we might wonder. We soon realize that this stretched out, dreamy opening is marking out an entire assumption about the pacing of this movement, which will give time, and distinctive harmonic indulgence  to what in other pieces might be fleeting. The result is a very long, glorious movement, in which nothing hurries, nothing is compressed, nothing has “classic” conciseness.    The idea of expanded dialogue is pursued again in the slow movement, in which an amorous dialogue between the first violin and first viola  insists on its space, is reluctant to let go.   

We might live with this piece for a long time, reveling in its moments, its especially generous C major sonority without realizing what an odd and radical piece it is.   Mozart, who was always conscious of the bar count in his pieces, no doubt noticed.     

— Notes by John Harbison
Artistic Co-Director, Token Creek Chamber Music Festival